The Open Government partnership is holding its annual summit in London today, and New Zealand is finally joining them. It took us long enough - and its hard to escape the conclusion that transparency simply isn't a priority of the National government. But at least we've joined it now. The next step is to develop an action plan with measurable commitments to improve transparency. What should be in it? Transparency International has a few suggestions:
transparency and integrity need to be strengthened in a range of priority areas, including extending the coverage of the Official Information Act to the administration of Parliament; increasing transparency of political party finances; implementing a new government strategy to promote ‘evidence-based policy making’; establishing a public register of trusts and of the beneficial owners of companies; extending asset disclosures by public officials; increasing transparency of procurement; and actively promoting the importance of ethics and integrity through civics education. The government should also initiate further assessments and research in specific areas to strengthen integrity systems over time, including commissioning an independent review of the inter-face between the political executive and the public sector focusing on the convention of providing free and frank advice.
Many of these are hot-topics overseas. The UK has just announced a register of the ultimate owners of shell companies to limit tax cheating and money laundering, and if we want to be part of that fight we need to do the same here. The question is whether National will show any real commitment to improving transparency, or whether they're just going through the motions. Given their reaction to the Law Commission's review of the Official Information Act, I suspect it will be the latter.